Get it right in the camera – What does this mean to me?

When I started my journey into learning photography and specifically film photography I felt conflicted in terms of editing  my photos.

On the one hand there were (and still are) many mediocre shots that could do with some editing yet on the other hand I really did not want to spend time sitting in front of a screen ‘improving’ shots when I could be out there taking pictures. I was much more relaxed about this with my digital photos, but when it came to film photos I really pressured myself that I had to get it right in the camera and there should be very little editing or even no editing.

I’m not sure why I put this pressure on myself, did I believe that film photographers did no editing, I think I did. I had never studied the master photographers and at that time when people talked about the decisive moment and the photographs taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson I truly thought that he pressed that shutter once, job done final image. I now know better. (lots already written about this so I won’t dwell)

And now that I am a bit more experienced has anything changed? I think it has. I still truly believe that you have to get it right in the camera but what this means to me has changed. Get it right in camera to me means the right composition with a good standard of metering/exposure. If you don’t have that right then no amount of editing is going to help – as the saying goes you can’t polish a turd

However once the negative has been exposed there are so many variables that it would be inaccurate to say it all took place in the camera. I don’t have a full analogue process (or full understanding of one) but my limited understanding is that how you develop the negative can impact the final look and then how you then crop, dodge & burn print etc in the darkroom can get the result you were looking for.

Post camera I have a very digital workflow, my negatives are lab developed and scanned and as such I don’t have control on the final look. That said there are a few labs now that you can work with to create your scanning preferences. I do own a good film scanner but lack of time and the dread of dust means I don’t use it right now.

So I’m going to stop giving myself a hard time in terms of editing. My aim is for the film I shoot to represent as much as possible the look it gives. I.e. Velvia 50 should have great saturated colours. I do still need to get it right in the camera by my definition but am much more relaxed about edits so long as they keep it true to the original scene and that it represents the film used. It is about having control over my own perceived style and look and not having this look dictated externally.

Now if only I could find some editing software I truly liked…..

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6 thoughts on “Get it right in the camera – What does this mean to me?

  1. I rarely touch my colour film scans (I have them scanned by FilmDev who take care of the processing too) for the reasons you give – I like to preserve the ‘look’ of whichever film I might have used. I’m trying to reduce the variety of filmstock that I use and so if I stick to Portra in the future, I don’t want to mess around with a consistent look.
    I process my own black and white and scan them too. I love the magic of the processing part but hate scanning. 120 is less hateful, but 35mm a real ballache. I’m usually just happy to get a result that looks half-decent, without then messing about with it afterwards…

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    • I use filmdev alot also they are very good, but don’t do E6 which I also like to shoot. I’m still experimenting and trying out different films but at some point I also would like to narrow down and concentrate on my preferred options

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  2. If you want to truly see the image you’ve gotten in camera, get a slide projector, shoot slide film. Don’t digitize it, project it. The projected image will be your final product. Therefore, there are no more steps where the process can be altered. The image that was taken by your camera is the image you see: the colors, the composition, the contrast, the exposure – none of them can be changed.

    If you’ve never seen a projected slide, it’s something to behold. There’s nothing like it in terms of color and the 3D feeling. The images pop off the screen. Once you’ve seen the projected slide, you won’t be able to look at your scans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love slide film, just holding up the slides alone gives great sense of achievement and the colours, the colours… I agree that a projector is the best way to display them, but in the current ‘digital’ world we live in I also have to pragmatic about what I do with them and as you say the scans do not do the slide justice

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  3. I, too, shoot a lot of slide film, most of it Pinhole. i NEVER alter the color scans from my lab, but I will tweak a B&W photo a tiny bit occasionally. I like my workflow, and I agree 100% shoot more, edit less.

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